dogwood is a small to medium-sized tree that is typically an understory
species in mesic forests. It can reach heights of 40 feet, but is usually
smaller, with a trunk diameter of 2 feet or less. It has upturned branches
and a flattened to rounded crown. It prefers well-drained, rich soils and
is a common component of the eastern deciduous forest. It has a broad range
that extends from Maine to Florida in the east to as far west as east Texas.
dogwood is widely used for landscaping because it attractive throughout
the year, with these characteristics:
- The large
flower bracts, which appear in April or May, are probably the most attractive
feature. The flower bracts are often mistaken for petals, but are actually
petal-like structures that occur beneath the true flowers, which are crowded
together in yellowish-green clusters above and at the center of four white
(occasionally pinkish) bracts.
trees are bred for showy bracts ranging from deep pink to white. The shape
is attractive and the tree not overwhelmingly large.
- The leaves
turn showy red in the autumn.
- The fruits
also appear in late autumn, as clusters of oval, shiny, red berries, up
to 1/2 inch long.
is light gray and smooth when the tree is young. As it grows, the bark
becomes grayish brown and develops a distinctive blocky pattern that looks
like alligator skin.
The twigs are slender and sometimes greenish to light brown, but frequently purplish and upturned at the tip. The twigs and branchlets are frequently swollen due to insect attacks. The leaf buds are slender and pointed, whereas the flower buds are stalked and globular (described as "biscuit shaped" by some).
are opposite, simple, oval and up to 5 or 6 inches long and less than half
as wide. They are pointed at the tip and have smooth (as opposed to toothed),
slightly wavy margins. They are typically shiny green and smooth on the
upper surface and paler on the lower surface, but may be sparsely hairy
on the upper surface as well as the lower. The leaf veins are conspicuous
and deeply impressed. The leaf stalks are less than 1 inch long and can
also be either smooth or hairy.
The flowers occur in small, greenish - yellow, inconspicuous clusters at the center and above four large, showy white to pinkish bracts. They bloom in late April or May.
are red, oval berries (drupes) that grow in clusters. They appear in autumn.
dogwood has hard, close-grained wood. It is used for tool handles, mallets,
and heads of golf clubs. A red dye can be made from the bark of the roots.
The powdered bark of the trunk was reportedly used in toothpaste and black
ink, and as an aspirin-like substance. Song and game birds eat the berries
and deer browse the twigs. The most widespread use of flowering dogwood,
however, is as a landscape ornamental.